A Most Wanted Man. John Le Carre.

John Le Carre. A Most Wanted Man. Penguin paper Toronto 2014 (first published 2008). F; 10/14.

I forgot my Kindle leaving for a 2 1/2 week trip, so had desperately to turn the vacant Hudson News shops in YVR upside down for something worth reading and this was the best I could find. What has happened to airport bookstores? I think we know…

It wasn’t bad at all. Several times I’ve been disappointed by pretty good thriller or detective authors obviously trying, but unable, to steer the genre toward real literature. This famous and successful author manages to combine almost achieving it with not seeming to try very hard and the overall impression is good.

A pathetic tortured Chechnya Muslim man Issa turns up in Berlin in the back of a truck with too much money on him and, represented by altruistic lawyer Annabel (the inevitable soft-skinned young female) approaches a banker (Tommy Brue, sixtyish current scion of a British private banking family on the wane) whose father has set aside for Issa a fortune provided Issa’s father, but a fortune obtained criminally. Interpol or other similar agency spook Bachmann is aware of all this and ends up in a struggle with his superiors, the CIA, and British intelligence to let the extremely serious and well-intentioned Issa hand over his wealth to a well-known Muslim cleric for charitable use. As opposed to the authorities capturing both of them, throwing the cleric in jail for his part in terrorism and sending poor Issa back to Russia for more torture.

The romantic interest is nicely handled and although we don’t exactly get a full-dimension psychological picture of darling Annabel in hippie gear on her bike, she is pitched as facing ambivalence toward Tommy, Issa, and even Bachmann as having potential, however paternal.

Spycraft and the banking world pack plenty of detail, and it’s hard not to imagine watching the gathering dénouement from a seat in some theater as all the elements collide in a dramatic climax, of course late at night and keeping us guessing about who knows, and is doing, what (this edition paperback cover indeed bears photos of Philip Seymour Hoffman, Rachel McAdams, and others clipped from the 2014 movie).

It held my interest. But then so does John Grisham, Lee Child, and even Stephen King when I read them. This however does dip gingerly into character, ambiguity in religion, aging, and love beyond Tube 8 or Snow White. 7.4/7.4

About John Sloan

John Sloan is a senior academic physician in the Department of Family Practice at the University of British Columbia, and has spent most of his 30 years' practice caring for the frail elderly in Vancouver. He is the author of "A Bitter Pill: How the Medical System is Failing the Elderly", published in 2009 by Greystone Books. His innovative primary care practice for the frail elderly has been adopted by Vancouver Coastal Health and is expanding. Dr. Sloan lectures throughout North America on care of the elderly.
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